Ingo Swann Biography

Ingo Swann (1933-2013) was an American parapsychology researcher, painter and author. He was active in psychic research and wrote several books on the subject.

Ingo Swann was born on September 14, 1933 in Telluride, Colorado. He led a colorful life even before settling into his career as a research subject in paranormal experiments. Swann was both scientifically and artistically inclined, attending Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah and earning a double bachelor’s degree in biology and art. After college he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served three years, mostly in Korea in an administrative position. He became friends with the wife of South Korea’s first president during this time. The two played bridge together, and this association led to Swann’s involvement in preventing a major international incident, for which he earned a letter of commendation.

After his stint in the Army, Swann pursued an art career while working at the United Nations Secretariat. Ultimately it was Swann’s interest in, and apparent possession of, psychic abilities that would earn him fame and become his life’s work.

As a child, Swann showed evidence of having psychic abilities. After a tonsillectomy at the age of 2, he was able to report details of the procedure even though he had been unconscious under full anesthesia during the surgery. His maternal grandmother had told him of similar experiences she herself had had, and young Swann preferred to discuss his experiences with only her.

These early experiences led to a keen interest in the occult and parapsychology. In the 1950s and 1960, Swann read books about these subjects and studied mind-control programs that were designed to enhance extra sensory perception (ESP) abilities.

In 1969, the 36-year-old Swann began working in parapsychology research. For twenty years Swann participated in research in controlled laboratory settings. He frequently lectured on the topics of psychic abilities, but he never publicly demonstrated his own.

Swann became involved in telekinetic research in the early 1970s. He worked with Cleve Backster, a pioneer in lie detector testing, in attempting to influence plants by mental activity. Then in 1973, Swann was involved in an experiment conducted by parapsychologist Gertrude Schmeidler that made a bit of a stir in the scientific community. Dr. Schmeidler reported that Swann was able to control temperatures in a sealed vacuum container 25 feet away by using only his mind.

Several national magazines published articles about the Swann experiment in 1973. Time posited that Swann’s psychic abilities could be more dangerous than an atomic bomb. In 1974, Time, Newsweek and Horizon acknowledged the importance of Swann’s experiment and suggested a rethinking of the possibility of psychic powers.

Swann continued to be a test subject for psychic research, which earned him monikers within the scientific community such as “parapsychology’s most tested guinea pig” and “the scientific psychic.” He was a top guinea pig for Stanford Research Institute and worked with researchers across the United States and in Europe.

Swann also participated in experiments in out-of-body travel. In these experiments, Swann would sit in a chair and focus his mind on objects in sealed boxes on platforms several feet above his head. He was successfully able to describe the objects in the boxes. Swann himself coined the term “remote viewing” to describe this ability.

As Swann’s experiments gained attention, books and magazine articles continued to be written about him. In the late 1970s his experiments were the topics of articles published in Reader’s Digest, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Examiner and McCalls. Author John Wilhelm wrote about Swann in his 1976 book about paranormal powers “The Search for Superman.”

Swann himself published a total of 11 books. His titles include “To Kiss Earth Good-bye” (1974), “Cosmic Art” (1975), “Star Fire” (1978), and “Natural ESP: A Layman's Guide to Unlocking the Extra-Sensory Powers of the Mind” (1987). Some of his books have been translated into several European languages and Japanese. He authored numerous articles and essays and was interviewed for dozens of magazines and television documentaries.

The official Ingo Swann website hosts many of Swann’s papers, as well as papers authored by others. In addition, the site contains news articles, book reviews and numerous other items related to Swann and his life’s work.

It should not be forgotten that though his main work was in the field of psychic research, Swann was also skilled artist. During his years working for the UN in New York City he painted in his spare time (the UN job was merely his means of support while pursuing his dream of having a career as an artist.) During this time he became friends with members of New York’s artistic and literary circles, including Andy Warhol. It was this connection with artists and intellectuals that led Swann to Manhattan’s thriving world of parapsychology research. Swann’s skills as an artist were more than mediocre. Many of his paintings were inspired by his remote viewing experiences and have been collected by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Ingo Swann officially retired from parapsychology research in 1989. His efforts to remain “retired” were not entirely successful. He continued to be involved in research, working with Laurentian University’s Michael Persinger in remote viewing experiments.

Swann’s physical health may have been the only thing that could keep him from his research. He was diagnosed with mouth cancer, and though he survived it, a fall on an icy street in New York City in 2003 shattered his femur and put him in the hospital for two weeks. This seemed to be the prelude to a fragile state of health that would last for the next decade. Swann died on January 31, 2013 after a stroke.

At the time of his death, Swann was in the middle of editing a book of his artwork. His legacy includes his art and his parapsychology research. Paul H. Smith, Ph.D. wrote at the time of Swann’s passing: “What he left behind will contribute to the developing of higher levels of human consciousness for many years to come – indeed, likely forever.”

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